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What is the chromatic circle?
A color circle is a tool in which the colors visible by the human eye are ordered.
In this color wheel a range of colors interact according to their hierarchy (primary, secondary or tertiary colors) so it is used as a resource to make harmonic or contrasting color combinations.
Traditional color circle (RYB)
It is the color wheel popularized by Goethe in the seventeenth century, characterized by the presence of six colors, three basic primary colors and three secondary colors.
- Primary colors: red, yellow and blue (red, yellow, blue or RYB)
- Secondary colours: orange, green and purple.
Natural color circle
It arises from studies of the nature of light by scientist Isaac Newton, who discovered that if a segment of natural light is distributed in a circle, the order of colors resulted in a chromatic circle. Two scientific models or forms of color organization emerged from this scientific breakthrough: the additive and subtractive color circle.
Additive Model (RGB)
It is a model that proposes the creation of a new color through the addition or addition of other colors of the spectrum, which leads to the white tone, the sum of all colors.
- Primary colors: red, green and blue (net, green, blue or RGB).
- Secondary colours: yellow, magenta and cyan.
Subtractive Model (CMYK)
This model proposes the creation of a new color from the subtraction or subtraction of color. This would lead to the black tone, which is the absence of light.
- Primary colors: cyan, magenta and yellow.
- Secondary colours: red, green and blue.
In this case, the acronym is represented by the primary colors (cyan, magenta, yellow) and black (key), which is what you get by mixing the first three.
Color combinations with the chromatic circle
The color circle is used as a tool in visual arts to achieve harmonies of colors that achieve a desired effect. In this sense, there are several methods to make combinations:
- Monochromatic harmony: as the name implies, it is based on the use of a single color, only in this case it is played with several shades. For example, use several shades of blue.
- Analogue harmony: consists of combining colors that are close in the color circle. An example may be to use yellow and orange.
- Complementary harmony: consists of using colors that are in opposite positions within the color circle. For example, orange and violet.
- Three color harmony: implies the use of three colors that are equidistant from the color wheel, as if they formed an equilateral triangle. A classic example is the combination of yellow, blue and red colors.
Origin of the chromatic circle
Already in the fifteenth century there were some representations of the primary colors organized in geometric shapes such as wheels, rectangles, hexagons, etc.
However, it was the playwright and scientist Johann Wolfgang Goethe who in his work Color theory, published in 1810, exhibited for the first time a chromatic circle of six colors, three of them primary (they cannot be obtained from the mixture of other colors) and three secondary (colors that are obtained with the mixture of primary colors).
Although scientific advances have allowed us to broaden the range of colors that can be perceived by the human eye, Goethe’s color circle is still used today, especially in primary education levels or in basic art studies.
There are currently several types of color circles. In all of them, the maximum that indicates that warm colors are located on one side of the circle (usually on the left side) and cold colors on the opposite side is met.